It was an epic marketing fail: on Monday, no one could say enough amazing things about Build-A-Bear, which was poised to offer an epic "Pay Your Age" deal that had parents racing to their nearest mall to claim a deeply discounted stuffed animal. By Friday, the company has become engulfed in a PR nightmare, with angry customers — and disappointed children — demanding answers.
In an interview on Today, Build-A-Bear's CEO, Sharon Price John, did her best to explain what caused the company to shut down its one-day promotion — which drew such a massive response that some shoppers reported waiting in line for nine hours — due to "crowd safety concerns" at stores across the US and in Canada and England.
"It was beyond anything we could've ever imagined. I am sorry that we were not able to provide the service that we wanted."
"There was no way for us to have estimated the kind of impact, those kind of crowds," she said. "It far surpassed anything we ever could've known. We did see it wind up on social [media], and we did put a notice out for people that we thought the lines could be long, and we worked with the malls, but it was beyond anything we could've ever imagined."
She acknowledged that they were "fully stocked" and "fully staffed," but if she could do it over?
"If there was a way to extend the day to just make sure that we service everyone, I would've loved to have seen everyone be able to get a bear," she said. "But it was the sheer amount of crowds and how much time we had in the day . . . we couldn't possibly move everyone through the process."
For those who didn't get to take advantage of the deal, John said the promotion will continue in the form of a $15 voucher. The company apparently distributed them to those customers who were turned away, but anyone who joins Build-A-Bear's rewards program can log into their account or go to a store to pick one up. That voucher will be valid through the end of August so shoppers can come in at their leisure. Plus, ongoing, stores will allow shoppers to still pay their age on a "birthday treat bear" during their birthday month.
"I am sorry that we were not able to provide the service that we wanted," she said.
Although her apology is certainly appreciated, is it really her fault? Could the company have truly expected such an unprecedented turnout for a promotion of stuffed bears, which retail for, at most, $35? Build-A-Bear had hoped to bring a little extra happiness to children with a well-meaning idea, and although the "road to hell is paved with good intentions," is it possible that we all could have managed our expectations a bit better? That we could have seen this kind of chaos coming as much as they could have?
The CEO said that as a mom of three herself, she knows "that the most disappointing moment is when a kid is superexcited and something doesn't happen." It's truly a shame that thousands of children had their hearts set on a toy and didn't get it, but perhaps that's an opportunity for parents — a teachable moment and a valuable lifelong lesson we can all learn. That's at least worth the cost of a stuffed bear, no?